A new UN report issued in advance of the upcoming Rio+20 Conference calls for urgent environmental measures to protect not only the environment – but also ourselves. The report states that population growth, rapid urbanization and consumption are all set to “inflict irreversible damage on the planet”.

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The UN Environment Programme‘s fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) was written over the past three years to help the global organization keep track of environmental issues and urge governments to create more ambitious targets or toughen existing ones. Of course, as has been shown time and time again, national targets often fall short. However U.N. Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner has said that time is now running out as we consume more and more of our natural resources.

“If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and ‘decoupled’, then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,” Steiner said in a statement. He also added that the world’s population is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050.

The most damning figure in the report is that of the 90 “most important environmental goals in existence”, only four are making significant progress. Some of these goals aim to prevent ozone depletion and provide clean water to every community, but the UN report said that it “had detected little or no progress in 24 goals, such as those aiming to address climate change, depleting fish stocks and expanding desertification.”

With Rio+20 only weeks away, the UNEP has called on governments to re-focus their policies on the key drivers behind climate change, such as population growth, urbanization, fossil fuel-based energy consumption and globalization. If it is not environmental damage that concerns them, then maybe the financial fallout will, as it is estimated that the annual economic damage from climate change will cost 1-2% of world GDP by 2100 if the temperatures increase by 2.5 degrees Celsius.

With Rio+20 bringing together more than 50,000 participants from governments, companies, and environmental groups, and lobby groups, Steiner underlined the UN’s message urging all nations to take action on their food security, water and energy policies. “The moment has come to put away the paralysis of indecision, acknowledge the facts and face up to the common humanity that unites all peoples.”

+ UN Global Environment Outlook

Via Reuters

Images: Saad FaruqueDavid~O